Reading lists

8 books that inspired teacher Ryan Wilson

Ryan Wilson's experiences as an English teacher inspired him to write Let That Be a Lesson, an account of the challenging and inspiring time he spent at the chalkface. Now, Ryan shares a selection of the books he studied, and some that he taught, that have stayed with him since leaving the classroom.

Ryan Wilson
Book, Let That be a Lesson by Ryan Wilson, against a bright yellow background

I can’t be alone in carrying a torch long into adulthood for the books I read at school. They’re bound up with memories of great teachers, simpler times and long summer afternoons reading in warm classrooms, being introduced to the world of pleasure afforded by books.

I was lucky enough to go on to be an English teacher, reading some of the same books with my own classes, and finding others that would work a similar magic. I know as well as anyone that not every lesson is a chorus of literary epiphanies; I have written about the ups and downs, the joy and the madness of my time in the classroom in my memoir, Let That Be a Lesson. But when the fates align, there is nothing as satisfying as reading a great book with a class of young people.

So this is a selection of books that are or have been on the school curriculum. Maybe you’ll find one that’s new to you, and you will come under its spell for the first time. Or if you choose to revisit a book from your past, I hope it rekindles old fires and you once again feel like you’re sixteen and anything is possible.